Sairento PSVR Review: Tech Keeps This Ninja Fantasy From Being Reality
While early hardware adopters might be abuzz at the prospect of major upgrades for a next-gen PSVR, there are still plenty of VR games coming to the PS4 to justify jumping in now.
One of the most recent is Sairento, a ninja-em-up that made the leap from PC to the PSVR and lets you live out your cyberpunk cyborg samurai dreams in a neon-lit Tokyo.
While Sairento has received rave reviews across the web, I have to be honest — I was less than enthralled with it. While the ability to fly through the air and perform crazy decapitations is undeniably awesome, there are two major issues that keep me from playing Sairento as often as other PSVR titles.
Don't Ninja Usually Put Their Best Foot Forward?
The first problem assaults you as soon as you put on your VR headset. It would be charitable to call the game's character models and environments ugly. What we are dealing with here is a crime against your eyeballs.
Abysmally poor polygonal box cars, flat buildings, and unconvincing gore effects assault your field of vision at all times — from moment one.
Of course, graphics don't make a game, and you can't judge Sairento on that element alone. I mean, West Of Loathing is literally a black and white game made of stick figures, and it was still one of the best releases of 2017.
When you move past the dated visuals and master the controls, there's a lot of fun to be had wall-running, sliding along floors, performing gravity-defying jumps, and flipping around behind enemies to slice them apart or unleash a hail of bullets.
Tackling enemy encounters any way you want is where Sairento shines, and it has plenty of secrets to uncover on that front, like figuring out you can actually do backflips in mid-air with certain arm motions.
Sadly, that leads me to my second big complaint: the pace of movement.
There are two methods of movement in Sairento, and, unfortunately, they are at odds.
Ostensibly, Sairento is meant to be a fast-paced, action-packed game where you streak across walls while shooting and slicing through enemies... and it is that ... when going forward and backward.
To mitigate potential player nausea, the game defaults to 90 degrees left and right turns, which are wildly distracting and simply don't jive with the game's hyper-speed and teleporting.
Simply put, the game is basically unplayable on its default settings, as it's too difficult to line up shots and aim at enemies when you have to shift your position 90 degrees at a time.
Thankfully, those who don't get sick from fast-motion VR can change this setting to free movement — only it isn't really "free." Here, movement is still noticeably slower and jankier than if you were moving around in a first-person shooter on a standard controller using thumbsticks.
The end result is a constantly nagging feeling, that Sairento could be an amazingly immersive and unforgettable ninja VR experience but it's always just falling short.
That problem is exacerbated with a few other limitations on movement, like how you can't turn while wall-running, and standing too close to certain vertical objects prevents you from jumping.
Where It All Comes Together
Story-wise, there's nothing awe-inspiring or earth-shattering here, as the story is simply a vehicle to get you acrobatically killing goons, which is where the game comes together.
Even if the story and graphics aren't particularly pleasing, the sheer number of combat options present may change your mind about Sairento.
Before even getting into the weapons, there is a host of skill trees to pick from, offering abilities like life regen, increasing slow-mo duration so you can be a Matrix badass, and adding the ability to jump a third consecutive time in mid-air for even more aerial insanity.
When you get into a fight with a cybernetic armored samurai, it's a dual-wielding dance of death where you can choose between any combination of swords, claws, pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, shotguns, and even thrown weapons like stars.
Of course, each of those weapons can also be modified with relics to enhance their deadliness, adding bonuses such as critical damage, drain life on hit, and more.
While the game's movement is clunky, Sairento does have a very satisfying VR feel when you grab a gun from a holster at your hip or pull a sword off your back with the Move controllers.
As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the guns over the swords, simply due to a lack of "presence" with the melee weapons.
That's a recurring issue with several PSVR titles (and a major sticking point for Everybody's Golf VR, where it didn't feel like you were actually holding and swinging a golf club that had real weight or heft).
Other games have overcome this limitation in a variety of ways that could have been employed here. Beat Saber, for instance, uses timed beats to great effect to make it feel like you're hitting something, and it utilizes haptic feedback when your two sabers cross paths. Something of that nature, like a gentle shock when landing a sword blow, would go a long way towards making the melee combat here more satisfying.
Choice is the name of the game, though, and swords don't have to be used in melee, as you can also unlock the ability to throw ranged shockwaves with melee blades.
The constant variety of choices keep Sairento from being a throwaway, as there is just an absolutely absurd number of options for tweaking absolutely everything. Here's just a small sampling:
- Prefer sitting over standing? No problem, the game supports that.
- Want a 45-degree movement option instead of 90 degrees or free movement? Done.
- Need your guns to automatically reload so you have one less thing to do while flipping, flying, leaping, and shooting? Sorted.
- Want your guns to only reload when you fling your arms up? What about only reloading when you fling your arms down?
Every single mechanic in the game has that level of customization across a whopping five separate pages of option screens.
The Bottom Line
- Tons of weapon, skill, and gameplay tweaking options
- You get to be a cyborg ninja in VR with guns and swords
- The movement and control scheme just don't work well enough yet to pull off the developer's vision
- These are some of the worst graphics I've seen in a PSVR game to date
Ignoring the hardware limitations and wonky movement, there's plenty to do in Sairento between unlocking skills and switching between waves of enemies, stealth assassinations, and area-clearing campaign missions.
Coupled with a decent amount of variety in the levels and a wide range of weaponry, this is an overall solid PSVR entry that just falls short in the visual department and doesn't have a great control scheme.
If futuristic ninja are your thing, you'll probably want to give Sairento a try anyway.
However, the recently released Blood & Truth delivers on this premise a little better, since it gives you high-octane shooting mechanics and other satisfying elements like VR lock picking.
[Note: A copy of Sairento was provided by Mixed Realms for the purpose of this review, which is based on the retail version of the game. The North American retail edition is now available.]